2024 starts with sell-off

US markets break 9-week bull run

US blue-chip stocks have broken a nine-week bull run for one of their worst starts to the year in a decade, as investors lurch between hopes of interest rate cuts and fears that a buoyant economy will delay any monetary easing.

The S&P 500 index closed up 0.2 per cent on Friday but managed a loss of 1.5 per cent over the shortened four-day trading week to begin 2024.

Blue-chips’ losses for the week represent an abrupt change in mood from December, when the S&P closed out a nine-week bull run — a feat not managed since 2004 — to finish 2023 within a whisker of a new all-time high.

DoJ preparing antitrust lawsuit against Apple

Apple (APPL:NASDAQ) shares slid less than 1% on Friday after The New York Times reported that the U.S. Department of Justice is preparing an antitrust lawsuit against the iPhone maker, which could be filed as soon as this year.

The agency’s lawsuit could target how the Apple Watch works exclusively with the iPhone, as well as the company’s iMessage service, which is also solely available on Apple devices. It could also focus on Apple Pay, the company’s payments system, according to the report.

The lawsuit, if it comes to pass, would be the biggest antitrust risk for Apple in years. The U.S. is Apple’s largest market, and Apple says the way in which iMessage and the Apple Watch work are essential features that distinguish iPhones from Android phones.

Apple shares ended the week 6.4% lower

Peloton rides high with TikTok

Shares of Peloton (PTON:NASDAQ) surged more than 15% during the week before paring some gains to finish 7% higher.

The surge in share price came after the fitness company announced a partnership with TikTok. The partnership is part of Peloton’s strategy to change its public perception and attract a broader array of customers as sales and profits fall.

The partnership will create a new fitness hub on the social media platform dubbed ”#TikTokFitness Powered by Peloton.”

It will feature short-form fitness videos, longer live classes, content from Peloton’s instructors and collaborations with TikTok creators.

BYD overtakes Tesla on EV sales

Data released by Tesla (TSLA:NASDAQ) on Tuesday showed that China’s BYD had overtaken it as the largest seller of electric vehicles on a quarterly basis. BYD reported selling more than 526,000 fully electric vehicles in the fourth quarter of 2023, compared with Tesla’s sales of nearly 485,000.

The loss of its EV crown puts new pressure on Tesla, which has been in a price war with Chinese rivals in the world’s largest auto market.

On Friday, Tesla recalled 1.6 million cars in China to make fixes to its Autopilot system, affecting most of the vehicles the company has sold in the country.

Tesla shares finished the week 6% lower.

Xerox is cutting jobs as it attempts a turnaround.

Xerox (XRX:NASDAQ) on Wednesday said it would reduce its workforce by 15% as it aims to stabilize its core print business by reorganizing its operating model.

A 15% reduction would affect more than 3,000 workers, based on employee numbers in regulatory filings. The printer maker had 20,500 employees at the end of 2022, a roughly 12% decrease from its 2021 headcount.

Xerox shares plummeted 12% this week.

Walgreens slashes dividend

Walgreens has announced it will cut its dividend by 48% to 25 cents per share. The pharmacy giant has been known for generous dividends and has paid them for more than 90 years.

The new dividend, to be paid in March, comes after the appointment of Chief Executive Tim Wentworth last October. Wentworth takes the helm as Walgreens’ business faces steep challenges, including weaker sales due to declining demand for COVID products and higher costs from rising wages.

Walgreens shares dropped 5.9% this week.